The Effects of Covid-19 on Funeral Homes


Written by McKenna Orrico, News Editor

With the mass spread of Covid-19, grieving the loss of a loved one has become even more difficult. Funeral homes are now faced with the challenging task of following the pandemic guidelines and allowing families to grieve the loss of their family members. From limited guests, social distancing, to overwhelming demand, these businesses have been trying to accommodate the families while considering everyone’s, including their own, safety.
In March, funeral homes were seeing their first Covid-19 deaths. At the time, they did not know how long the virus stayed in the person’s system after they passed away. This uncertainty left them asking important questions. Could they catch the virus from the people who lost their battle to Covid? If so, were they putting themselves and their families in danger? The CDC later put out a statement saying that there should be little concern contracting the virus from the deceased. March and April were also difficult months for these establishments because the demand was overwhelming. Funeral homes in cities like Chicago, New York, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, and Baltimore were getting shut down because they were not equipped to handle the surge of deaths. Unfortunately, as time went on, some never caught up.
When Illinois first went into lockdown, the Illinois Department of Public Health, also known as the IDPH, was very strict with the recommendations they were giving for services. If the deceased passed away from Covid-19 they were recommending that they be cremated or have a closed casket with only immediate family and no visitation. If the deceased did not pass away from Covid, the recommendation was a service with ten people or under. Typical visitations can have anywhere from fifty to four hundred people, so to have this extremely limited attendance was a struggle for many. In light of this, funeral homes found ways to allow mourners who could not be there still pay their respects. They were offering families the opportunity to stream the wakes on platforms like Zoom, Facebook Live, and others. This allowed other family members and friends to be a part of the service while staying safe at home.
As the summer months approached, there was a decline in Covid-19 cases. The CDC and IDPH both loosened their restrictions to allow both Covid and non-Covid deaths to have visitations with fifty or fewer people. Mourners still had to follow Covid-19 safety procedures which included social distancing, wearing masks at all times, no eating or drinking, and washing their hands. Also with the decline in cases, families were now given the option to have services at places of worship. The number of people allowed and safety precautions varied based on the individual place, but they still had to stay within the recommendations given by the CDC.
When the fall and winter months arrived, the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths forced the restrictions to go back to ten or fewer people at visitations. Even though these recommendations are very strong, the CDC and IDPH cannot make these suggestions law, but if they trace an outbreak back to the funeral home they have the authority to shut them down. This causes funeral homes to now wager allowing families to grieve the loss of their loved one in person and the risk of losing their livelihood.
With the vaccine becoming more available, funeral homes are hopeful that shortly they will be allowed to start having larger visitations while following the Covid-19 safety procedures. When wakes and funerals will be going back to normal is still unknown, so the funeral business is learning to adapt and create a new normal that allows families and friends to be able to mourn effectively.


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“Funeral Guidance for Individuals and Families.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Dec. 2020,

IDPH. “Funeral Homes Guidance.” Funeral Homes Guidance | IDPH, Illinois Department of Public Health, 17 Nov. 2020,

Lanzoni, Will, and Benazir Wehelie. “New York Funeral Homes Overwhelmed by Coronavirus.” CNN, Cable News Network, 7 Apr. 2020,